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APR 02, 2020 7:30 AM PDT

From Hendra to Wuhan: emerging bat-borne viruses in a quarter of century

C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
Speaker
  • Professor & Director, Emerging Infectious Diseases Program, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore
    Biography
      Linfa Wang, PhD, is the director of the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore. Having completed his Bachelor's degree in 1982 at the East China Normal University in Shanghai, Wang went on to obtain his PhD at the University of California, Davis. His early research was at the Monash Centre for Molecular Biology and Medicine. In 1990, he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), where he played a leading role in identifying bats as the natural host of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus. His research then extended from bat-borne viruses to bettering understanding virus-bat interaction, and he led an international team carrying out comparative genomic analysis of two bat species. They discovered an important link between adaptation to flight and bats' ability to counter DNA damage repair as a result of fast metabolism and to co-exist with a large number of viruses without developing clinical diseases. Wang's work has been recognized internationally through various international awards, numerous invited speeches at major international conferences and many top scientific publications, including Science, Nature, Nature Reviews in Microbiology, Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), along with five patents and many invited book chapters. He holds a number of honorary positions and memberships and has received numerous awards such as the 2014 Eureka Prize for Research in Infectious Diseases. In 2010, Wang was elected as a fellow of Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in recognition of his expertise in new and emerging diseases. Wang is also active internationally by serving on various editorial boards for publication in the areas of virology, microbiology and infectious diseases. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the Virology Journal.

    Abstract

    The Year of Rat is unfortunately dominated by bats due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Although we are not 100% certain that this is a bat virus, all the evidence suggests that there is a high chance that it originated from bats.  This is a “SARS-like event caused be a SARS-like virus” based on the following: 1) the onset of the oubreak is in the Chinese winter (November – December); 2) the major transmission event(s) have a strong epidemiological link to wildlife market; 3) the virus belongs to the same species, SARS relative coronavirus (SARSr-CoV), as SARS-CoV; 4) a bat CoV genome detected in a horseshoe bat (RaTG13) is 96% identical in sequence to 2019-nCoV.
        
    In exactly 25 years, we have had multiple zoonotic diseases outbreaks caused by bat-borne viruses or probable bat viruses:  Hendra in Australia (first detected in 1994), Nipah in Malaysia/Singapore (1998/9), SARS outbreak (2002/3), MERS outbreak (2012), large scale Ebola virus outbreak (2014) and the Covid-19 (2019/20).  

    We have discovered that the bat’s innnate defense and tolerance responses are better balanced in comparison to other mammals.  On one hand, they have high basal level defense systems (such as DNA damage repair, heat shock, memberane efflux pumps) switched on before encountering danger signals.  On the other hand, they have evolved sophiscated mechnisms to prevent over reaction (such as over inflammation) upon viral infection and other cell stress signals.

    It is now well recognized that bats are a special group of mammals execetptionally fit as natural reservoir of many different viruses.  If we don’t change the way we live, farm and eat, it is almost certain that such outbreak will happen again in the not to distant future.


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